Speaking at an antitrust symposium sponsored by Georgetown Law School in Washington DC, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said that the commission was “on track” to decide on whether or not to pursue an antitrust case against Google “by the end of the year.” In other words: after the election — not that a decision would necessarily have an impact one way or the other.
However, if the FTC were to bring a case before November it might be used as fodder for the critique that Washington is trying to get in the way of “job creating industries.”
Leibowitz is quoted by the NY Times saying at the event, “We have not decided as a commission what we’re going to do, where we’re going to go with respect to Google . . . We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing – we’re weighing the evidence, we’re thinking it through, in a collective, collaborative bipartisan way.”
Earlier this year the FTC hired a widely respected outside antitrust lawyer in a sign that the agency was getting more serious about a potential case against Google. The attorney, Beth A. Wilkinson, who is a partner at the firm of Paul Weiss and a former Justice Department official, has never lost a case apparently (40-0).
Yet a new FTC nominee Joshua Wright, who has bi-partisan support, disfavors antitrust action against Google. According to an article appearing in Politico, in addition to being a law professor, “Wright is also listed as a senior adjunct fellow for TechFreedom, a think tank that Google has listed as among the groups at which it sponsors policy fellows.”
The momentum against formal litigation appears to be in Google’s favor. Sensing that, just yesterday, anti-Google lobbying group FairSearch announced some high-profile new members (including Nokia and Oracle) and “warned” the FTC and European Commission not to settle for tepid or symbolic remedies against Google.